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MBA Redesign At LBS: More Tech, Flexibility

London Business School. Courtesy photo

When it comes to MBA programs, one size most certainly does not fit all. Recognizing this, London Business School is redesigning its MBA, planning several major alterations that will be launched in August 2017 with an overarching goal to make the program more flexible.

Among the changes: an increased focus on tech, with new courses in digital business and entrepreneurship; more global opportunities than ever before; and multiple exit points at 15, 18, and 21 months, so students can choose the best MBA program length for themselves.

“We are constantly adapting our MBA, but every four or five years, we take a good hard look at it,” says Gareth Howells, executive director of the MBA and MiF. “We really wanted to enhance and develop the things that we were strongest in, and we wanted to make sure we were listening to candidates and employers.”

The changes are in line with recent trends LBS has seen in its students, Howells says. The school’s most recent MBA Employment Report announced that 94% of its 2016 MBA graduates accepted job offers within three months of graduation, and of that 94%, more than a fifth went into tech. Nearly half have been employed outside of the UK.

‘THEY DON’T EXPECT TO HAVE A SINGLE CAREER’

Gareth Howells, courtesy photo.

Howells says LBS students have traditionally gone into consulting and finance. While those fields are still the most popular, at 35% and 25%, respectively, the increase in students going into tech is notable. Amazon alone recruited 13 graduates from the LBS Class of 2016, and Google recruited eight.

“What we’ve done as part of our redesign is we’ve created a more flexible menu of options,” Howells says. “We wanted to recognize that not everyone’s interests are the same, so we set about creating a whole new suite of courses that students can pick from. Twenty-two percent go into the tech sector, so we wanted to make sure we have courses that support that.”

He stressed that a well-rounded education in business fundamentals is still important. In fact, Howells says, people going through MBA programs these days tend to think about the industry more broadly than before.

“They don’t expect to have a single career, they expect to have many careers in their working lives,” he says. “We’ve been growing over the past few years, and will continue to grow over the next few. So we have a scale now where we can deliver something that can speak to a wider range of career aspirations.”

LONDON HAS GREAT ADVANTAGES, BUT MANY WORK ABROAD

LBS’s location  is one of its greatest advantages, Howells says, allowing students to participate in a wide range of experiential learning projects all over the city. This prepares them to work internationally — which many do, following their careers all over the globe. Forty-eight percent of the Class of 2016 has been employed internationally, Howells notes: 16% are in Europe but outside the UK, and 11% in Asia. Overall, LBS graduates are in 40 countries outside the UK.

To address this, Howells says, the school is redesigning its MBA with the intention to become the most global and most flexible in the world. LBS offers Global Business Experiences, week-long programs abroad where participants can make site visits and company visits, attend workshops and talks by guest speakers, and have the opportunity to engage with LBS alumni in a particular region. As part of its curriculum revamp, LBS has added new locations to the Global Business Experiences, including Lima and Tel Aviv.

But career interests weren’t the only things considered during the revamp. In order to make the MBA program work for a wider range of candidates, there will now be three exit points. Students who choose to graduate after 15 months will receive the same degree as those leaving after 18 or 21 months, Howells says, and tuition is the same.

‘IT’S ABOUT HAVING THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS’

“We were really proud of our two-year model, allowing people to have the depth and breadth it provided,” Howells says, “but we recognize that with the variety of careers people have, or want, we have to be flexible.”

In particular, he mentions students sponsored by their companies who might be interested in the shorter program. “They might take a shorter route, as a career accelerator, but it’s completely their choice,” he says.  Nor will students have to decide on an exit point right away. Howells says LBS expects to have students who plan to stay for a full two years but end up finishing early instead.

“It’s about having the best of both worlds and putting the student in the driver’s seat,” Howells says. “The requirements for the degree stay the same, so when they finish early, they front-load, and maybe do more electives the first year. But we also want them to have the opportunity to do an internship, or go on a global excursion, if they decide they want to.”

So far, Howells says, the planned revamp has received positive feedback. Though the changes were announced in the middle application season, LBS saw an increase in applications immediately after.

“For the stage immediately after the launch, we increased applications by 20%,” he says. “For the year, we’re up 15% so far, and our yield has gone up as well.

“MBA programs are constantly changing, and it’s very competitive, but our main goal was to update the program to make it stronger, and bigger, and to also have an impact on students.”

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